PARIS — The British government is home to 16 active orbital slot and broadcast frequency registrations with international regulators that are used by commercial satellite fleet operators, far ahead of the United States, with nine, according to new study.

France, China and Russia each have four satellite licenses actively used by a satellite fleet operator.

The British dominance includes seven registrations with the United Kingdom’s domestic telecommunications regulator, Ofcom, and nine filed through British Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories, led by the Isle of Man, where five commercial geostationary satellite fleet operators use the island to register at least one active orbital slot.

Bermuda is home to two filings by satellite fleet operators, and the Cayman Islands and Gibraltar have one each.


The survey was conducted by the NSR consultancy for ManSat Ltd., the commercial company under contract to the Isle of Man to handle satellite registrations with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the Geneva-based United Nations agency that regulates satellite slots and frequencies.

The study, released Sept. 29, illustrates how few of the ITU’s 193 member nations have a stake in satellite operations in the form of a domestic company doing business with its licensed spectrum.

Seventy-nine ITU members have made satellite registrations in one form or another, but only 55 of these have a commercial user attached to their registrations. And of these, most have only one operator, often government-owned, that is using the slot.

ManSat Chairman Chris Stott said the Isle of Man’s commercial approach to regulatory registration appears to be paying off given the island’s success compared with neighboring British islands, all of which boast similar tax advantages.

Allan Bell
Allan Bell, the Isle of Man’s chief minister. Credit: Isle of Man

“We apply commercial efficiencies to a complex legal, technical and regulatory process … in a field dominated by traditional government practice,” Stott said in a statement. “[A]s an outsource provider, we are able to ring-fence the Isle of Man government from the cost and technical and legal risks of the process, while also contributing to the financial health of the island … in the form of our annual fee, which we pay to the government.”

Allan Bell, the Isle of Man’s chief minister, said the government decision to target the commercial space business as a growth sector, starting with satellite licensing, has led other space-related business to set up shop in the Isle of Man.

“Today we have a cluster of companies dealing with the financing, insuring, leasing and legal aspects of space assets in addition to commercial satellite filing,” Bell said.

Satellite fleet operators Avanti Communications and Inmarsat, both of Britain; ViaSat Inc. and EchoStar, both of the United States; Telesat of Canada; and SES of Luxembourg have all created subsidiaries in the Isle of Man at one time or another.


Peter B. de Selding was the Paris bureau chief for SpaceNews.